Reauthorize Export-Import Bank to protect jobs

The OlympianJune 11, 2014 

Imagine a federal agency supported by business, labor, bankers and manufacturers that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime and creates thousands of made-in-America jobs, many of them right here in the Pacific Northwest. It sounds like something the Republican Party would dream up.

Instead, a group of House Republicans has raised opposition to this agency, which actually exists. It’s called the Export-Import Bank.

This little-known agency has assisted U.S. companies in selling their goods and services abroad by guaranteeing compensation for transactions that last year totaled more than $27 billion. The Export-Import Bank has been a huge driver of American manufacturing and job creation.

The bank funds itself by charging fees to foreign purchasers for providing loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance. It was so successful last year that it returned more than $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

What’s not to like about that? Apparently nothing, because until recently, members of both political parties have unanimously reauthorized the 80-year-old Export-Import Bank’s charter, which expires this year on Oct. 1.

But a group of right-wing House Republicans led by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas has raised objections on ideological grounds. That wouldn’t matter much, except that Hensarling chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee.

He says the Export-Import Bank disrupts the free market, because if it’s such a good idea, commercial banks would provide the service and should have that opportunity. Hensarling ignores that every major U.S. competitor on the world market has a similar, often larger, government agency.

The 10th District’s Rep. Denny Heck, a member of Hensarling’s vast finance committee, is leading House support for the Export-Import Bank. Because of his efforts, reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has been added to the Make It in America plan, a federal effort to protect and create American jobs.

Heck calls the Export-Import Bank “a job-creating machine” for small American businesses. Given that 59 other countries have their own export credit programs, not reauthorizing the bank’s charter would undercut our global competitiveness.

The bank has helped small South Sound businesses, such as H2 Jet of Olympia to make more than $5 million in overseas sales, and IEF Corp. of Shelton to sell nearly $14 million of its crop production products. Even tiny Little Green of Hoquiam benefited from the bank with about $242,000 in foreign sales.

The South Sound entrepreneurs who use the Export-Import Bank prove Heck’s point that “The rest of the world is growing their middle class, and if we want to keep and grow our middle class, we have to sell into theirs.”

Hensarling’s opposition is pure, pointless obstructionism. The rest of Washington state’s congressional delegation should rally with Heck and vote for reauthorization, as they all did in 2012.

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